Saturday, June 27, 2009


I was given up for adoption the day I was born. My birth mother says she looked at me but didn’t touch me. She worked at Frederick and Nelson, a department store. She went into labor in cosmetics. Nobody knew she was pregnant. It was a secret.
The nuns took care of me at the Catholic Childrens Home until I went to a foster home. There’s a note in my baby book that they wrote stating they gave me dark Karo syrup for my constipation. They said I was fussy and wanted to be held.
My parents adopted me when I was three months old. I came to Olympia from Seattle in the back seat of their red and white Mercury Montclair.
Fifty years later, I am still fussy and wanting to be held.

Sunny Side Up

Provocative is a nap
between lunch and dinner
it is not my neighbor
in my bed
just the cat

tangerine shades pull against the light
smiling at a string of paper lanterns
our audience
laundry mimics
the sound of sex
spin cycle shudders

But that lover wouldn’t stare,
caress my cheek and say
I will love you forever
or point out that
if we were eggs
I’d be sunny side up


I was the girl
who could tie
a maraschino cherry stem
in a knot
with her tongue
all baby oil and iodine
flying over railroad tracks
with Dirty Larry
one foot in a platform shoe
two sizes too small
Bacardi out of the bottle
in the backseat
three Our Fathers
six Hail Marys
I was the friend
who sat up and talked
stole your boyfriend
while you slept it off
few regrets
ticket stubs
the one who’s
read like a mystery novel
that Guinness Book
The Enquirer
I was that girl
who would climb
over a gearshift
for love

Morning 2003

My hands stay on my dress
clinging to the flash
of orange and red

You lower your face
thinking of another

Our lives play out
between the lifting sheets
two nestled question marks

You flip my pages
like an expensive

But I’m just
a yellowed envelope
waiting to be sent

The Patio, 2001

I just got out of rehab
not much is left
in my small
container garden

Some things
are rigorous
and genuine
like lemon balm,

I nearly drove into
a telephone pole
this morning
a stranger’s red
in a second story window box

I used to raise nasturtiums
their generous mane climbing up
the old wooden fence

Suppose I hadn’t been gone -
would the wisteria
have made it?

Kitchen Table

My 83 year-old mom sits at the kitchen table in the spot where my dad used to sit and plays solitaire next to her plastic caskets full of pills, counted out for each day of the week. In front of her is a battery operated card shuffler her diabetes testing equipment, a pen holder, a tissue box, a tin full of old fashioned hard candy the color of jewels.

The table she sits at itself is oak. It’s round but has three leaves that can expand it to fit our family at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. There are 11 of us now because one of my ex husbands keeps showing up for holidays and nobody tells him to stay away. He’s my second ex, not the most recent.

I ask my mom whatever happened to the old kitchen table, the one with the chrome legs and grey Formica top? The one we ate every meal at until I joined the army. I don’t remember. The nogahyde on the chairs was torn. I guess we gave it away. She does recall that her current table is only the fourth she’s had since 1945 when they built the house.

I sat on the side of the table between my parents. My dad came to the table in a white Fruit of the Loom t-shirt after washing up from his work as a heavy equipment operator. He always smelled like Palmolive or Jergens soap when he came to the table. I could partially see the tattoo of a ship peaking from beneath his short shirt sleeve. Mom put the food on the table and was the last to sit down. We never had a tablecloth. Dad read The Daily Olympian while he ate. In those days, the paper was delivered in the afternoon just before dinner. My mom read it before my dad got home so she was one up on him on the news they might discuss over dinner.

We didn’t say grace every night like a lot of Catholic families. We did say it when my Grandma Finnegan came on Sundays and on holidays when the rest of the extended family came to eat.

Once we were finished with dinner it was time to do the dishes. That job fell to my mom and I. She washed, I dried. We fought while we did dishes - about nothing, about everything. Most nights I stood over the dishes, staring at my reflection in the window above the sink. At 17, I imagined that steamy portal was my way to escape.

I gladly wash the my mom’s dishes now. She sits in the next room watching television. Over thirty years later, I still stare out that same window wanting to be transported away.

April 1987

I am in Vilseck, Germany,
the town where I live.
I am at the American Steakhouse or Saloon
I am on the bathroom floor, dressed in my favorite outfit
- black denim skirt, red sweater, red purse and red shoes.
I see that one of my shoes is missing.
The floor is cold like a wet towel but it feels good on my face.
I spot my other shoe behind the toilet.
My purse is open.
Why was I carrying so much cash?
The floor is cold.